If you follow my work you know that I’m huge fan of the pioneering researcher Dr. Linda Bacon . Her findings are integral to the work of the Health at Every Size community. This year she came out with her second book, a collaboration with Dr. Lucy Aphramor, entitled: Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight.
When I heard this book was coming out I was quick to preorder and devour it. When the publisher asked if I wanted a copy I said, “Thank you, I already one and I love it, but if you want to send one over for one of my readers please do!”
I decided I wanted to give the book out to a newsletter subscriber who sent in their own definition of a Well-fed Woman. I received dozens of submissions and I decided I’d pick at random, not wanting to play favorites. Winner aside, I had to share a some of these beautiful interpretations with you…
“A Well-Fed Woman: A woman who unapologetically claims her brilliance, bravely opens and shares her most vulnerable moments, is willing to lick her fingers of pleasure, wears an apron with gratitude for her divine imperfection, and knows that self-worth is an essential ingredient in life.” tweet
“To me, a well-fed woman is one who feeds herself on the levels of body, mind, heart and soul. She doesn’t deny herself pleasure, and she nourishes herself with food, people, and experiences that makes her feel alive!” tweet
“My definition of a well-fed woman: one who loves herself fully, even if others taught her not to, and tries to listen to the subtle messages from her body and soul in order to live fully with delicious desires and an intent to fulfill them.” tweet
“A well fed woman is a woman whose body vibrates with love and passion for herself, her family, and her community. She is well fed in the sense that she takes the time to honor herself with food and patience (or is working on it everyday). She is well fed in the sense that when the inevitable struggles of daily life create a deficit in joy, she can count on a warm reception from herself and those who love her to fill in that space with extra care, even if it is hard sometimes. A well fed woman is delighted to see the ancestry and genetic gifts and treasures given to her from a long line of women before her….the soft, the hard, the plump, the flat, the everything in between. A well fed women connects with her source of the divine and is full.” tweet
“A well-fed woman tends her own garden, knows when her well is drying out, and knows which gardener down the street might have some water to lend.” tweet
“A well-fed woman is an empowered woman, immersed in self-care and receptive to nourishment from others and the world.” tweet
“A well fed woman responds to her bodies cues with compassion, like tending to a child with leadership and love.” tweet
How would you define a Well-fed Woman?
Being in control feels awesome.
Determining the outcome of things because we’re in control, double awesome.
When we feel in control, our nervous system is as calm as if we were a baby snuggled in our mother’s arms. Control feels safe and safe is where it’s at for many of us.
Unfortunately our sense of control, especially as it pertains to outcomes, is most often an illusion.
I know a thing or two about pursuing control. I spent a good chunk of my life white knuckling the steering wheel. I was in hot (and often rigid) pursuit of controlling my weight, other’s perceptions of me, and how successful I was at whatever endeavor I’d embarked on.
Perhaps you can relate.
Sadly, the tight grip I tried to have on everything–and everyone–didn’t produce the results I’d hoped.
My weight yo-yo’ed, people judged me, boyfriends left me, employers fired me. Try as I might, seeking to control the end game never seemed to work out for me.
These days I have a radically different approach.
I make choices about how I show up and what my boundaries are, releasing all outcome, as much as possible.
Success today is defined as whether or not I did my part, not whether a certain result came to be.
In my very real, and very imperfect life this looks like…
Practicing eating intuitively and releasing any control of my body’s weight.
Committing to showing up with my clients with presence, curiosity, and love. Releasing whether or not they’ll get anything out of working with me.
When I was single, this looked liked choosing how I wanted to show up on dates and releasing whether it went anywhere. Whether the outcome was rejection or a second date, success’ hat was hung on how I chose to show up.
In a relationship, this looks like a personal requirement that my partner and I do work with a couples therapist long before there are any major issues and releasing whether or not we’ll be together in 60 years. It looks like telling the truth, even if it’s not what he wants to hear because I want whatever outcome is the result of the truth.
This practice is entirely about having awareness and commitment of how we want to be in our lives.
I want to be honest. I want to be present. I want to be relaxed. I want to be compassionate. I want to allowed to be human. I want to be creative.
And I can play a part in all these things. I can play a major part in how I’m showing up.
I can’t however, determine or predict what will happen tomorrow around the bend. I don’t know how others will receive me or my work. There is so much I don’t know, and accepting that–living without attempting to be psychic–is freedom.
The impact of my being is not in my control and to chase it would be fruitless and exhausting. Of course, I only know this from the painful years I clung to controlling outcomes.
Something unseen in all this is the belief that I’m enough.
If I didn’t believe that I was enough I would still be chasing that through all the same old dead-end alley ways.
In my coaching practice I see this showing up when a client is utterly terrified of dating (while hungering for partnership). Terrified she’s being awkward or that she’ll be rejected. Terrified. The solution isn’t to avoid dating. The solution is to figure out what she can control and make that the definition of success.
This same phenomenon shows up when clients have career or creative hungers that paralyze them with fear. This is a sign that success (and safety) is defined as a certain outcome rather than simply the act of going for it with heart.
So I propose this:
If you’re exhausted from trying to control your weight, stop. Try instead to eat in a way that feels good, tastes good, and honors your body. If you can do that (and you can), what your body weighs will matter a whole lot less.
If there’s a creative project you’re pregnant with or a career move calling to you, play with defining success as trying something new, or as Brene Brown says, as getting into the arena.
Today, success for me is hitting publish on this post. It’s far from perfect. It might not even be useful to some people stopping by. But it’s honest and communicates something that has been liberating for me. And thankfully, my sense of my own enoughness doesn’t rest on these 700 words. And that feels way more awesome than being in control.
As I turn my attention to the end of our year the metaphor of a well occupies my mind.
I love the rhythm–that we draw from a source and that source replenishes. When the source runs dry, so do we.
The drinking well is a practice that helps to gently remind us to keep our own well full. The practice in it’s most simplistic terms is to have a drinking vessel that is chosen to represent the well and is used throughout the end of the year, daily, to support staying literally and metaphorically hydrated.
In more expanded directions…
Find a drinking vessel. It can be a mug, tea cup, tumbler, mason jar, water bottle, or even a bowl if it’s something you like drinking from.
It can be something you own or a new special acquisition.
Hold it in your hands. Ask it: when I drink from you, will you fill me up?
If the answer is yes, then it can be your drinking well.
Now give it a bath. Not a “doing the dishes” scrub, but a slightly ceremonious cleansing. Extra hot water. Loving touch. Purifying thoughts. Ending with a clean cotton towel pat down.
Your drinking well is ready.
Keep it near you. Drink from it often. Clean it with care.
When you do drink. Pause. Taste. Breathe out.
Notice where your skin meets the surface of the vessel.
Notice how the liquid feels washing down your through.
Notice where your deeper well needs filling and where you might have sprung a leak.
When we fill our drinking well, we are reminded that there is an ebb and flow of energy that must be respected, especially this time of year.
The practice is this: when we fill our drinking well and our drinking well fills us.
I’d love to see your drinking well, snap a picture, share it on Instagram with the hashtag #mydrinkingwell
You can see some of my favorite drinking wells over here on Pinterest.
I need a quiet thanksgiving for two, with braised turkey legs and twice baked sweet potatoes. And pie.
I need slightly over-full days of coaching, not because it’s easy right now, but because it’s just right.
I need to continue the pilgrimage I’m walking with my latest project. Long days, one after the other, picking my foot up and putting it down. Compass pointed toward a mecca of mine I’ve been wanting to reach for a long time.
I need a few stolen days of cuddles and laughter and making out, just enough to fuel the fire for the long trek.
I need time at my sewing machine because it’s the backbend to all of my many forward bends. Even if I hunch over it.
I need hard conversations. The kind that turn the universe on it’s head and demand fresh answers to unvisited questions.
I need people in my life who do what I don’t do as well. They the base of my pyramid, allowing me to reach higher.
I need tickles, given and received from a heart-on-wobbly-legs toddler.
I need candles that I’ve blessed, sesame oil on my skin, new perfume for a new chapter, and homemade minestrone.
I need stillness and alone time, married to tables wrapped in my favorite people.
I need a yoga practice that asks nothing more of my body than to show up and respond to what is felt.
I need to let love in. Truly. Open the doors, throw back the shutters and say, “Come in, it’s cold out there. Would you like a cup of tea?”
This is what I need this holiday season. What do you need?
For over a year I’ve been leading small groups of women through the process of becoming Intuitive Eaters. Without question, it’s the very best work I’ve ever done. Four groups went through the first six weeks, then women who were hungry for more, continued on in ten week master groups. One of the ten week master groups wanted even more and are about to wrap up their twentieth week together.
What I have loved most about leading these women is the honest to goodness, grounded transformation that occurred when we added all this up: time+space+community+compassion+knowledge. This is simply the best formula I know for lasting change, paradigm shifts, and cellular reorganization.
Carolyn is one of the brave, brilliant women in my groups. Upon completing our journey together she shared this manifesto of sorts she wrote for herself based on all I taught. She calls it her “Lovely, Freeing Eating Guide” and after hearing her read it, I knew it had to be shared.
I honor my Holy Hunger as often as possible, letting my body Desire so that the food I eat tastes delicious and nourishes me body, mind and soul.
Before I eat, I ask my body (not my head), what she desires.
When I do eat, whether or not I am hungry, I don’t judge it. I enjoy it. Slowly, one bite at a time, not future or past but just this moment. The texture, the taste, the aroma. Sloooow Pleasure. I also notice how full my stomach is getting.
Throughout the day, I ask my body how She feels and what She needs. What would increase HER pleasure?
I satiate myself with life.
My body can be trusted. I eat, I fill up, I get hungry again.
When eating, I want to be effective. To scratch the itch. If I binge, not only am I NOT scratching the itch, but I’m blocking the resources that will.
When I overeat, I can always ask myself “How can I become more present and alive in this moment?” Or “What is the kindest thing I can do for myself?”
I hit the pause button more before, during and after eating. I notice my thoughts, my emotions, how my body feels. I slow everything down to super slow motion. I breathe, remembering I have lots of options. They are all okay. What does my sweet self want? What’s the most supportive, loving thing I can do for myself in this moment?
That’s the practice.tweet
Simple, yet brilliant, right?
That’s the practice.
I’ll be direct: the holidays will be here before we know it.
It’s already the close of October and at year’s end time has a funny way of speeding up.
It’s become an annual tradition to take a break from sharing wise words to share some of my favorite candidates for holiday gift giving.
You can find the previous year’s gift guides, here:
May this year’s treasures spark your hunger for beauty, inspiration, and generosity.
11. Wisdom Notes for a Well-fed Holiday (Technically registration doesn’t open until 11/3, but I have a hunch if you head over to the Wisdom Notes page you’ll have no trouble signing up.)
I moved to California almost 10 years ago.
I didn’t know anyone here when I made the trek.
All of the sudden I was living 3,000 miles from my family. I had to find housing, employment, and survive in graduate school on my own.
I felt invisible in a town where I had no connections and, at the start, it was a pretty lonely time.
On the one hand I felt separate from those around me and yet I knew deep down that we were all connected. I felt that I was amongst fellow humans and I just needed a way to bridge the gap.
So I told a little itty bitty white lie.
To get a daily boost of connection I began to tell random strangers–at the grocery store, in the steam sauna at the gym, at the bus stop, in waiting rooms–that I was working on a creative writing project (which wasn’t true). I told them I just needed to ask them one question.
The questions i asked would shift. Sometimes I asked “What’s something you’re grateful for?” Sometimes I asked “What’s been your greatest life lesson?” While the questions changed, the way these small moments fed me did not.
Almost every exchange was heart-warming and effortless. On occasion someone would decline my curiosity, but that was the exception in my experience.
This one tiny white lie made a world of difference on days when I’d otherwise have little to no connection with other people.
In the time since then I’ve built a robust community of local friends but when I’m in the cereal aisle or at the dentist, I still feel the urge to reach out and ask the nearest stranger a question that will create a moment of connection. Reflecting back on that time I’m struck by what a sweet and simple little practice.
Perhaps those early California days are what make me sensitive to one of the challenges I see my clients face frequently: making adult friendships. (That and the fact that I went to five schools before college so making new friends and starting over are familiar territory for this sensitive woman).
I’m sharing this piece today to offer you a little exercise if you’re feeling alone or disconnected. If you’re not, I’m sharing it to start a wee conversation (over on my facebook page) about what small ways you find connection, build community, and make new friends.
It’s simply true that we’re all in this together and we’re all the same.
–– Oh, and it’s not lost on me that writing this blog post almost makes that old white lie, a truth.
Pursuing a well-fed life is not one long buffet table of awesome-sauce.
When you agree that your hungers are wise and that you are worthy of being fed, you also agree to experience being hungry.
And most of us don’t enjoy being hungry. In fact, many of us will do anything to avoid this particular flavor of lack.
To avoid feeling our longing and desire we put our hungers in the back of the closet, or in the attic, or behind the stove. Anywhere out of reach of our conscious experience. And to keep them there, we numb ourselves through all the usual suspects: food, shopping, alcohol, staring at screens, and so forth.
And the result of putting our hungers away, in an effort to not feel hungry, is that we are then rarely, if ever, feel fed. Quite simply, it’s hard to feed a hunger that we’re actively denying.
The solution: play the odds.
I can’t promise you that if you walk the path of a Well-Fed Woman that 100% of your hungers will be fed, 100% of the time, with minimal discomfort or waiting.
What I can promise is that the first option—stuffing them down or denying them—has a near 0% success rate when it comes to living a happy life.
The second option—saying yes to your hungers—the option I’m advocating for, will always lead you somewhere very fulfilling.
I can also promise that the discomfort of being hungry won’t kill you. And, perhaps more importantly, I can promise that hunger becomes significantly less uncomfortable the more we have a ‘yes’ relationship to it.
Much of the discomfort we experience around being hungry comes from anxiety and fear that we might not ever be fed or get enough. But women committed to living well-fed lives, over time, we establish a pattern of feeding ourselves and tending to our hungers, such that the anxious (and previously starved) part of us becomes reconditioned to trust that hunger is just a precursor to delicious satiation.
So yes, if you want to be a Well-Fed Woman you will experience periods of hunger. Some will last mere minutes and some will last many years. And the reward for your courage to feel these wise messages will be a life far more satisfying than if you deny your wants.
In my book, this is a risk always worth taking because the odds are in your favor.
You can’t know what will feed you unless you taste it — and taste a lot of other things that don’t feed you.
And sometimes you need to taste something many times before you know if you like it, if you need it, and how much of it is supportive for you.
This will mean tasting things that don’t taste good.
This will mean tasting things that might make you ill.
This will mean tasting things that are almost right, but not quite (Hello, Goldilocks).
If you’re not sure what you are hungry for, start by tasting anything and allowing your wise body and heart to tell you what is satisfying.
This might mean trying out dating a wide range of people.
This might mean a career path that is anything but a straight line.
This might mean asking to sample all 31 flavors when you go for ice cream.
Wouldn’t it be a magical world if we already knew what was right for us before trying anything out, before making a mistake, before embarrassing ourselves, or ruffling any feathers, or hurting feelings, or ‘wasting’ time.
Nah. That world sounds bor-ing.
Tasting the full menu is one of the best parts of life. It allows us to feel grounded in knowing that what we’ve chosen is more right for us, in comparison to what we’ve let go.
When I look back on my life I see a woman who needed to taste some very icky, very off, and very painful things in order to learn what worked.
When you ask yourself “What was I doing back then (in my 20′s or 30′s…)? What was I doing with in that relationship? What was I doing in that dead end job?”
The answer to all of these questions is: “I was tasting.”
Seize your freedom to try new things that might feed you so you can discover what actually does.
Want to be a Well-Fed Woman?
Better get to tasting.
* Note: you can now click and highlight any line in this, or other, blog posts to create a customized tweet. Try it out!